Flood watch issued by Cataraqui Conservation

The dock at the Woolen Mill in Kingston submerged in the waters during the peak of high water levels experienced in 2019. Photo by Connie Howes.

Cataraqui Conservation has issued a flood watch for Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River due to elevated water levels.

The flood watch was issued on Sunday, Apr. 12, 2020, and stated that, as higher than normal water levels persist, further increases are expected. According to the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA), the current level on Lake Ontario is about 75.3 metres above sea level. This is nearly 0.5 metres above average for this time of year, and about 0.35 metres below the record high for this time of year, which was set in 1973. The current level is also about 0.3 m above the typical summer peak level.

“Heightened risks may start to develop as levels rise above 75.3 metres, including potential shoreline flooding, beach submersion, crawl space and septic system inundation, and wave-driven erosion. The current water level on the upper St. Lawrence River, which is greatly influenced by the level of Lake Ontario, is about 75.0 metres, measured at Brockville,” the CRCA said in a press release.

As of Thursday, Apr. 9, 2020, the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board, which manages the Lake Ontario outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam in Cornwall, is forecasting that, under seasonally normal weather and water supply conditions, peak water levels of around 75.56 metres on Lake Ontario would be expected in the week ending May 15, 2020. Higher peak water levels are possible if wet conditions occur, the River Board said.

The CRCA advises that, as water levels increase, so does the possibility and likelihood of impacts, particularly during periods of active weather. Water levels rose above 75.8 metres on Lake Ontario and 75.5 metres on the upper St. Lawrence River in both 2017 and 2019. This resulted in the submersion of docks and localized impacts to dwellings and roads. According to the CRCA, some of the impacts on Lake Ontario started to occur at levels between 75.55 metres and 75.7 metres.

“Widespread flooding is not expected at this time. This Flood Watch provides advance warning to municipalities and residents in flood prone and low-lying areas to the potential for localized flooding and erosion impacts,” CRCA said.

“Residents in flood prone and low-lying areas should continue to pay attention to wind and wave forecasts for approaching storms with high winds from the southeast, south and southwest, such as the one forecasted for April 13 & 14, as these are the conditions when the probability of localized impacts (e.g. flooding & erosion) is increased.”

This comes at the same time as Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Kingston and the area predicting local rainfall amounts of 25 to 35 mm in the afternoon and into the night on Monday, Apr. 13, 2020. The statement also advises that wind gusts of 60 or 70 km/h are expected with a few isolated gusts to 80 km/h possible. According to Environment Canada’s Marine Forecast for eastern Lake Ontario, waves of two metres building to three to four metres are predicted for early this evening. Waves will then subside to two to three metres near midnight, and then to one and one half metres Tuesday morning.

Those who witness flooding and require assistance are advised to first contact their local municipality. Cataraqui Conservation does not provide sandbags, however, the Conservation Authority does provide information on where to purchase sandbags here.

Any work along shorelines (e.g. placement of fill, armour stone, etc.) requires a permit from Cataraqui Conservation. Call the CRCA office at 613-546-4228 or visit their website for further information.

Cataraqui Conservation staff will continue to monitor the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board forecasts, as well as provincial statements regarding surface water monitoring, and local water levels. Updated information from the Conservation Authority will be sent out at needed. This flood watch is in effect until 11:59 p.m. on July 30, 2020, unless otherwise updated before.

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